Entrepreneurial

Startup banks on TV show tweets

– By Alastair Goldfisher. This article initially appeared on PE Hub. –

At the NewTeeVee Conference in San Francisco earlier this month, a Twitter executive noted more people are using Twitter while they watch TV to comment on programs and interact with others doing the same.

That observation is good news for TVmoment, a San Francisco-based startup (located in the pariSoma loft) that is aiming to launch soon. TVmoment, started earlier this year by co-founders Frederik Fleck and Gaylord Zach, is currently in testing mode, but the service allows users to chat online with others about their favorite shows and movies while watching TV.

In some ways, TVmoment is similar to others in the crowded TV social space, such as GetGlue, Miso, Philo and Tunerfish. TVmoment provides chat rooms, social functions and check-ins. But TVmoment has also developed server technology to sync your Internet with your TV, so when you change what channel you’re watching, the audio receiver on your laptop will recognize what show you changed to, and then those in your social network on TVmoment will be notified of the switch, assuming you opted-in to that choice. A video demo is posted below.

“There are all kinds of possibilities with TV and social interaction,” Fleck said. “The early first step was sites that told other users what you were watching. We want to take that a step further.”

Startup ditches dating site for video games

When his original startup concept flopped, Charles Forman decided to give his dating site a makeover.

The New York-based software programmer switched his business model from flirting online to multi-player video games and launched OMGPOP in 2009.

“The original idea didn’t do so well at first,” said Forman, who had launched OMGPOP’s predecessor – ImInLikeWithYou.com – in 2006. “Once we put games on the site traffic increased immediately.”

Will Momzelle appeal to nursing mothers?

Christine Poirier designed her own nursing top to help her feel less insecure about breastfeeding in public after the birth of her first child. Her invention turned into a business and now she faces the challenge of expanding her Toronto-based apparel company, Momzelle, into the U.S.

The target audience for Momzelle is straight forward: new breastfeeding, active, urban mothers (see original story here).

“They want to be able to go to restaurants, cafes, meet their friends outside in parks and just have a baby and have a life as well,” said Poirier, adding they’ve sold close to 10,000 shirts this year, which retail from C$45 to C$70.

Is paint product a game changer?

IdeaPaint co-founder Jeff Avallon insisted his product has a real “wow factor” and that was supported by our experts, who felt the coating that turns any surface into a dry-erase whiteboard had great consumer upside.

The original concept for IdeaPaint was hatched nearly a decade ago by Avallon’s Babson College classmate John Goscha, who grew frustrated with the limitations of writing on large sheets of paper taped to walls in his dormitory (see original story here). Five years later, after a lengthy testing period and more than a few flops, a sellable product emerged and IdeaPaint was launched in 2008.

“It didn’t take us five years to develop a working product; it took us five years to develop a safe product,” said Avallon, who came onboard with co-founder Morgen Newman in 2006, shortly after Goscha – who has since left the company – had been told by a paint test lab his concept was impossible.

A startup financing strategy that works

– Kenneth H. Marks is the founder and managing partner of Raleigh, North Carolina-based High Rock Partners. He is also the lead author of the “Handbook of Financing Growth”. The views expressed are his own. –

Statistically no one gets venture capital. The ratio of the number of companies started each year vs. the number of companies funded is minuscule. For most companies it’s just plain unrealistic. So, how do the 99.9 percent of startup businesses get funded?

The financing strategy is bootstrapping in stages based on iterative phases of success and only doing what must be done to get to the next phase with minimal capital. This is a resourceful and practical approach:

Are turnkey hospitals possible?

Jon Weiner envisions a day when he can quickly build a new hospital utilizing American best practices and state-of-the-art technology anywhere in the world. While our experts were excited by Weiner’s healthcare concept they were mixed on his ability to ultimately pull it off.

Weiner co-founded the New York-based startup OR International LLC (www.orintl.com) with the goal of exporting a higher-quality American brand of healthcare throughout the world, with a primary focus on improving patient treatment (see original story here). In just six years ORI has opened specialty hospitals in the UK, Africa and Cyprus.

“Our first hospital in the UK has the highest patient satisfaction rates of any hospital in England,” said Weiner, whose company operates five specialty hospitals in the UK, one in Cyprus as a partnership with the American Heart Institute and last January opened the doors on a new $100-million facility in Botswana, Africa.

Michigan launches “world’s largest” startup competition

The proliferation of startup incubator or accelerator programs has made it tough for most to stand out among the crowd. So the way the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition chose to do it, is by offering what it claims is the “world’s largest” cash award – $500,000 – to the winning business pitch.

The only condition is that the winner has to set up shop in Michigan.

“Seventy years ago we were Silicon Valley,” said David Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, which provided $750,000 – in the form of a grant – of the more than $1 million in prize money for the competition. “That DNA is still here and we need to re-highlight the activities that are already happening and the things we need to do in Michigan to return it to its innovative roots.”

The contest is the collaborative efforts of four of the state’s biggest incubator programs: Ann Arbor Spark, Automation Alley, Macomb-OU INCubator and TechTown. The competition will be accepting proposals from startups around the globe through October 6 and will award the grand prize on December 12th. There is also a secondary competition just for students with concepts for longer-term business viability, which runs through October 22.

RatePoint taking aim at Yelp?

Customer reviews can be crucial to a small business, especially in a climate where consumers are trying to make smarter decisions about their purchases. It’s no surprise then that review sites such as Yelp, Local and Mahalo have flourished over the last few years.

RatePoint is the latest to attempt to cash in on the trend, having secured more than $20 million in funding since it launched in 2006. Recently the Needham, Massachusetts-based site got another $7-million from three local venture capital firms: Prism Venture Works, .406 Ventures and Castile Ventures.

Neal Creighton, RatePoint’s co-founder and CEO, insisted his company is not just another Yelp, noting RatePoint’s reviews come from actual customers and not just a community of reviewers that may have no connection to the company. It’s a subtle, but important distinction, said Creighton.

Index, Accel bet big on Squarespace

- Lawrence Aragon is the Editor-in-Chief of the Venture Capital Journal and Private Equity Week, both Thomson Reuters publications. This story originally appeared on PE Hub.com. -

Fast-growing Squarespace, a competitor to blogging platforms such as WordPress and TypePad, recently announced it has taken its first institutional money – a $38.5 million growth investment led by Index Ventures and Accel Partners. The deal values the company between $80 million and $100 million, according to a knowledgeable source.

The New York-based company landed on the Inc. 500 last year, coming in at No. 339. Inc. magazine reported that the eight-employee company had grown its revenue from just under $270,000 in 2005 to $2.2 million in 2008.

How to survive the entrepreneurial rollercoaster

- Tina Paparone is the co-founder and CEO of gift company BeMe. This article originally appeared on Under30CEO.com. The views expressed are her own -

Entrepreneurs tend to be a little bit crazy. Starting a business takes a touch of insanity, but running a business can sometimes send you over the edge. You put everything you have into your business, face challenges you never could have prepared for and on top of it all are constantly scrutinized. How do you stay sane? After two years of being on the rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship, these are the things I’ve found help me manage the dips and stay focused on the loops.

Learn to be patient: Patience has never been my specialty. I come from a hyperactive, scream-over-each-other-to-be-heard type of family, where if you don’t move quickly you are likely to be left behind. This life in the fast-lane mentality had propelled me forward in both my education and career so I applied it to my startup, setting ambitious goals & keeping busy with an endless list of daily tasks. I became increasingly frustrated, however, when my efforts weren’t yielding the immediate results I expected them to.

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